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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Anaheim Ducks

The lack of forward production takes them back a few spots but their defense and goalie remain among the best in the NHL

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Twenty-second up are the Anaheim Ducks. No longer the "mighty-ducks", the Ducks are entering their 24th season having won the Stanley Cup behind Jean Sebastien Giguere in 2006-2007 and having made the playoffs in 10 of the last 12 seasons.

Basic Stats:
2016-2017 NHL Standings: 6th
Western Conference Standings: 3rd
Pacific Division Standings: 1st
Goals for Rank: 18th
Goals against Rank: 3rd

: The Anaheim Ducks have been a very well run organization over the last decade. Once featuring the power line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, they were able to battle through trading Bobby Ryan and a continued decline in their main two forward producers who were at a combined 169 points in 2013-2014 down to 126 points last year. They are the fifth oldest team and in need for an infusion of young talent to backfill these lofty shoes. It is coming in the form of Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg who scored a combined 100 points last year in the regular season and then went on to score almost a point a game each in the playoffs finishing as the 2nd and 3rd highest scorers for the Ducks over that time. Jakob fired 227 shots on goal last year, good enough for 30th most among forwards, despite sitting at 58th in minutes. Rickard might be a special talent for the Ducks, drafted 30th overall in the 2011 draft, Rickard scored 33 goals last year (up from 20 the year prior) shooting an unrepeatable 18% (anything above 15% is fantastic). Ryan Kesler does his part as the gritty vet playing strong two way hockey and getting the mental edge on the opposing stars. The offense is likely on a slight decline year over year but should be able to remain in the top 2/3 of the league. Their defense, among the best in the NHL, allowed just 29.6 shots per game, good enough for 10th fewest in the league. Their top four of Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen,   Josh Manson and Hampus LIndholm are all between 23-26, on the rise of their careers, and combined for a +37 last year in plus minus.  In net John Gibson has capably stood up to the spotlight, finishing last year with 2.22GAA (4th best in NHL) with a .924 Sv % (also 4th best in the NHL) bringing his 4 year career in Anaheim average to a 2.22 GAA with a .922 save %. It's unclear in the chicken egg argument if it's more the solid defensive play or goaltending that lead to them allowing the 3rd fewest goals last season and fewest goals in 2015-2016 but the combination has become one of the most controlling goal stopping units in the league.

Major Additions
: Francois Beauchemin, Ryan Miller
Major Subtractions: Nate Thompson, Luca Sbisa

Prospects and Picks:
- Sam Steel. Selected 30th overall in the 2016 draft, Sam lead the WHL league with 131 points over 66 games. Partially the beneficiary of playing for the best team in the WHL Sam certainly showed a maturation in his game and abilities that has caught the eye of the Ducks. It's likely he needs another year to mature and for the organization to see if he can continue to produce but if he does get a nod part way through the season, keep a watchful eye on his first handful of games.

-Brandon Montour. Selected 55th in the 2014 NHL draft, the UMass-Amherst player spent  3  years in a combination of AHL teams Norfolk Admirals and the San Diego Gulls netting 99 points across 118 game. He was brought up for 26 games last season scoring 6 points with a +11 across 26 games. He is offensively inclined and will be the likeliest Cam Fowler prototype. He reads the ice well anticipating passes; however, at times he gets burned in the process. He should settle in nicely as a top 4 defensemen for the team this year.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
-Rickard Rakell. On the rise, the 24 year old will not be able to score at an 18% clip but what he can do is shoot more having fired just 8 more shots on net year over year despite playing more than a minute more per game. I think he will fall just short of 30 goals but will net a few more assists going up towards 55-60 points this season. He should play alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and despite the production decline of those two, they still remain a formidable top line.

-All defensemen (Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Kevin Bieksa and Brandon Montour). What they do NOT do -€” produce (with the exception of Cam Fowler and MAYBE Brandon Montour). With that said, if you are in a league that stresses plus minus stat in any form, expect Brandon Montour, Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm to all be above +10 and likely in the teens in this stat. I will be taking a late flier on Brandon Montour to see what he can do.

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $3.3MM with 24 players signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 10th
Western Conference Standings: 5th
Pacific Division: 2nd

NHL 11th: Ottawa Senators (Eastern Conference 6th; Atlantic Division 3rd)

NHL 12th: Montreal Canadiens (Eastern Conference 7th; Atlantic Division 4th)

NHL 13th: New York Rangers (Eastern Conference 8th; Metropolitan Division 4th)

NHL 14th: Calgary Hurricanes (Western Conference 6th; Pacific Division 3rd)

NHL 15th: Carolina Hurricanes (Eastern Conference 9th; Metropolitan Division 5th)

NHL 16th: San Jose Sharks (Western Conference 7th; Pacific Division 4th)

NHL 17th: Dallas Stars (Western Conference 8th; Central Division 4th)

NHL 18th: Philadelphia Flyers (Eastern Conference 10th; Metropolitan Division 6th)

NHL 19th: Winnipeg Jets (Western Conference 9th; Central Division 5th)

NHL 20th: St. Louis Blues (Western Conference 10th; Central Division 6th)

NHL 21st: Boston Bruins (Eastern Conference 11th; Atlantic Division 5th)

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)